6 essential knowledges to be a good translator

The must-have list of skills a translator needs in order to be hired by a quality translation services provider.

It is often quite difficult to recognize a good translator at work! We see a person sitting in front of a computer and some time later, one of two possible outcomes: a good or a bad translation. But if we want to be more specific, we could specify six skills that a translator needs to get hired by a good translation services provider. Knowledge of the source language, the target language, cross-language connections, cultural contexts, the subject and the mechanisms for transmitting meaning.

Whether it needs a business translation, a website translation or subtitling, a good translation agency must be able to guarantee a client that its translators possess these six skills:

1. Knowledge of the Source Language

The translator needs an in-depth knowledge and understanding of the language they are translating so as not to miss any implicit meanings inherent to the language.

2. Knowledge of the Target Language

The translator must also have a perfect mastery of the target language in order to reproduce the context or tone of the original text.

3. Knowledge of Cross-Language Connections

Knowing two languages is a pretty astounding accomplishment on its own, but it does not suffice: the translator must also have a deep-rooted understanding of the etymological and linguistic correlations between the two languages required for the translation.

4. Understanding Cultural Contexts

And there is something else: in addition to knowing both languages and understanding the relationship between them, the translator must also use her knowledge of the two cultures. A language is a set of words and grammatical rules, but also an extensive system of connotations and cultural references.

5. Subject Knowledge

A translator’s knowledge should not only be linguistic: he also needs to be familiar with the subject matter of the text to be translated (as this knowledge includes meanings and specific vocabulary for a particular field).

6. Knowledge of the Mechanisms of Transmission of Meaning

The translator should also know when to use a literal translation or the formal equivalent and when to seek a dynamic or functional equivalent that will replicate the meaning of the text as faithfully as possible.

Therefore, the role of the translator is like that of an actor in a play. Translation services involve taking decisions which in turn require interpretation. This mainly applies to literary texts, but also to other types of jobs such as scientific or legal translation.

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